It’s been almost 20 years since documentary filmmaker Louis Theroux interviewed Jimmy Savile as part of his When Louis Met... series, but he still regards it as “the strangest and most upsetting event” of his career.
Back in early 2000, he spent a week with the former Top of the Pops, years before it was exposed that Savile had sexually abused at least 72 children and women at the height of his fame.
Talking at the Edinburgh International Television Festival on Thursday 22 August, Theroux explained to presenter Dawn O’Porter that, at the time, "there wasn't enough to go on to make [Savile's paedophilia] a relevant topic of inquiry".
He went on to add that the interview was pitched to the entertainer’s team as a means "to slightly poke fun at him," rather than to investigate any current allegations.
In the instalment, an unprompted Savile confesses to Theroux that he tells anyone who’ll listen that he hates children as a way "to put salacious tabloid people off the hunt".
"Does it work?" replies Theroux.
"It works a dream," Savile grins.
Theroux said that the exchange was typical of Savile’s “weirdly brazen” attitude which often confused those around him, stating: "I would never really call him my friend in a straightforward way. We were friendly. I had friendly feelings towards him."
The broadcaster also said that he’s revisited the film since Savile’s crimes were revealed and that he still sees the programme as “a hard-headed piece of journalism.”
He said his experience with Savile, knowing what he knows now, has given him a “strange sense” of responsibility when it comes to standing by other victims.
Most notably, Theroux felt compelled to “stick his head above the parapet” in defence of James Safechuck and Wade Robson, who claimed Michael Jackson abused them when they were younger in the controversial HBO documentary Leaving Neverland.